New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): As many as 63 thermal power projects, worth 57,121 mega watts (MWs), are running behind schedule across the country, including six from Maharashtra. Critical to the infrastructure, these overruns – at a time when the country is facing a power shortage of 30,000 MW – could halt industrial health of the country and more so affect the foreign direct investment (FDI) and even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ plans.
According to official sources, issues like land acquisition, frequent hartals, contractual disputes, tiff with villagers and slow civil works are to be blamed for delay in commissioning of these projects. A whopping Rs 3.53 lakh crore, the original cost of the projects, has been invested in these projects and the time overrun could well result in cost overruns too, they fear.
The Bongaigaon thermal power plant in lower Assam is running 66 months behind schedule, so is Bokaro in Jharkhand, 51 months. Two of the projects – in Nasik and Parli – in Maharashtra are running 65 and 48 months respectively behind schedule. These projects were supposed to replace 68 thermal power projects, declared retired since 2003.
It becomes more worrisome as in cumulative terms, core infrastructure industries have declined from 4.2 percent during April-March 2013-14 to 3.5 percent during April-March 2014-15. Alok B Shriram, president of PHD Chamber of Commerce, maintains that the time demands a strong push and dynamic policy regime at the ground level to refuel demand, especially the rural demand. But for long-term industrial outputs, credible supply of power was a basic requirement.
Four units of Nabi Nagar plants in Bihar, worth Rs 4,520 crore, are stalled due to delay in land acquisition and slow progress of civil works undertaken by M/S ERA, and supply of equipment by BHEL. The adjoining three units of new Nabi Nagar are also awaiting acquisition of balance land. Even for the land which has been acquired, the owners are still to be relocated and they are pitched inside the project area.
The works on Kudgai plant in Karnataka stands stopped on account of unrest and agitation, resulting in exodus of manpower. Its first unit was scheduled to be commissioned in December 2015. Two plants in Maharashtra, Mouda and Solapur are have a time overrun of 7-12 months due to delay in supply by contractors. Two units of Gadarwara projects in Madhya Pradesh are also facing issues related to land acquisition. The same is the case for phase one of Raghunathpur in West Bengal. There is delay in land acquisition for water and rail corridor, which has also led to law and order problems.
India’s per capita power sector consumption stands around at just 940 kilo watt-hour (kWh), much lower than that of China’s, which stands at 4,000 kWh. The Western nations have an average per capital consumption at 15,000 kWh. India has installed power generation capacity of 2,49,488 MW. But the daily generation is only to the tune of 1,35,000 MW, much lower than what is desired to develop the country into an industrial hub. To add to woes, transmission and commercial (AT&C) losses are to the tune of 26 percent of generation. Further, in rural areas, access to power is still a mere 52.5 percent, while in cities it is 93.1 percent.